CHENNAI: Even as three fronts are contesting as alternatives across 234 constituencies in Tamil Nadu, only the Dravidian majors were able to put up a strong show of strength with Booth Level Agents.
In all the constituencies in Chennai, apart from just having booth agents inside the polling station, the Dravidian majors managed to put more than one stall, with three people, to assist voters.
However, parties like Naam Tamilar Katchi, Makkal Needhi Maiam and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, had zero booth presence in most of the city constituencies booths such as Royapuram, Mylapore, Velachery, Alandur, Chepauk and RK Nagar among other constituencies.
Surpassingly, even the BJP’s booth-level presence was very small, compared to DMK’s, and it appeared that the AIADMK did not come forward to assist the BJP in setting up booth agents to help out the voters.
While the DMK had three people in a stall to assist voters, the BJP only had one, and in some places, it did not even put its cadre. In constituencies where AIADMK was contesting, the party had put up a strong booth presence matching the DMK.
This gains significance because a solid booth presence is required for a party to do micromanagement in the last-mile.
Many voters would not know how to find their names in the electoral roll, or are unaware of party symbols, would not know their voting compartment numbers, and may not have booth slips.
In such cases, they approach the booth level staff outside a polling station to seek help. Members either from DMK or AIADMK will help guide them to vote and it can also slightly influence the voting patterns.
Apart from this, an electoral roll will have independents for namesakes and identical symbols. Only if there are party booth staff, the voters can be cleared of confusion just before they go in to vote.
However, for setting up booth-level staff, parties may need to spend money as well as have cadre strength.
The city has close to 6,000 booths and the Dravidian majors at least put 9-12 people per booth, in various streets, with 3 people just sitting outside the booth. These people will cover the voters and help them with all their grievances.
However, the non-Dravidian fronts do not have this huge of a strength. “We do not have the cadre power like the Dravidian parties. In some constituencies, we just have less than 100 people total. So we use our resources only in constituencies where we may have prospects,” said a Cadre with Naam Tamilar Katchi, adding that about 300 people were deployed in the Thiruvottiyur constituency where its leader Seeman is contesting.
Similarly, the MNM too zero to five percent of the total booth staff compared to the Dravidian parties. “We not just help voters to correct their names but even assist elders and people-with-disability with no support to safely guide them polling booth,” said an AIADMK functionary, pointing out that without the non-Dravidian parties do not have popular symbols, and without a booth level strength, it is doubtful for them to taste success.